By Ikechukwu Amaechi
WHAT could account for the heightened state of insecurity in the South East? This was the poser five governors and heads of the security agencies in the region raised when they met on Sunday, April 11, 2021 in Owerri, Imo State capital, during the first South East Security Summit. Many people are asking their own question: Don’t they know the reason?
While it will be a surprise that they, indeed, don’t know the answer to the riddle, it is not a surprise that the meeting decided to play the ostrich by approving as part of 15-point communiqué that “the acting IGP (Inspector-General of Police) and other security chiefs do invite the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to find out the reason for increasing insecurity of the Southeast,” while resolving “to maintain a joint security vigilante for the Southeast otherwise known as Ebube Agu”, with headquarters in Enugu.
If the chief security officers in the region don’t know the reason for increasing insecurity in the South East, how then would leaders of a socio-cultural organisation like Ohanaeze know?
Clueless power mongers
How would Christian leaders know? It is laughable. It would have been better if that summit didn’t hold. At least, people would have been left guessing. Now, they have held a summit and left no one in doubt that those we have as security chieftains are either a bunch of clueless power mongers or mischievous leaders or both.
I doubt how many people in the region took notice of the summit, not to talk of its resolutions. For many, the parley was too little, too late because, to borrow a cliché, the horse had already bolted from the stable. A week before the summit, precisely in the early hours of Easter Monday, there was a major security breach in Owerri when gunmen attacked the Owerri Correctional Centre and set free about 1,844 inmates and burnt down the police headquarters with little or no challenge from the Nigerian state. Over 50 vehicles were destroyed and the entire police command was demobilised, literally.
The gunmen sang and danced in front of the Douglas House, the seat of government in Owerri, daring those that claim not only to be in government but in power to do their worse, without any response from state actors. They had a parade of honour, sporadically firing celebratory gunshots along major streets in the city without any challenge before finally vanishing into the thin air.
As if that was not bad enough, two days later, gunmen also razed the Ehime Mbano Local Government Area Divisional Police Headquarters in the state. Being a policeman in the South East has become almost a death sentence as non-state actors not only effectually take on the ineffectual state security forces but also imprudently contest legitimacy with the Nigerian state.
Nigeria presently epitomises the Hobbesian state of nature where life is nasty, brutish and short. So alarmed is the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Cardona Laing, that she screamed aloud last week: “We are extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation,” in the country. “Nigeria,” she said, “is facing a lot of problems everywhere” and really struggling.
Everyone else is worried for the country except the very people whose day job is to superintend over the affairs of the country and worry on our behalf. Assuming, without conceding that those who attended the summit didn’t know the reason for the heightened insecurity in the region, and were genuinely interested in the truth, all they needed to do was take a cursory look at the attendance register.
Could it be that they did but because they have been blinded by the suffocating injustice that has become the country’s signature tune, they no longer know the difference between right and wrong and how a people’s sense of alienation could spur feelings of resentment and resistance?
Alloy Ejimako, a lawyer and counsel to both the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, did a short but well-considered article on the security arrangement in the South East and how it fuels insecurity in the region. I crave your indulgence to quote him elaborately.
“The current security arrangement for Southeast is unconstitutional: The ‘expanded’ security meeting on Southeast held recently with South East Governors had an interesting posse of security chiefs in attendance, including the following: Maj-Gen Abubakar Maikobi (GOC 82 Division, Nigerian Army); Air Vice-Marshall Idi Amin (Air Officer Commanding); Yusuf Ishaku (Director, DSS Anambra); A.J. Ibrahim (Director, DSS Abia State); H.E. Abdullah (Director, DSS Ebonyi); B. Likinyo (Director, DSS Enugu); Baba Tijani (AIG Zone 9, Umuahia); Awosola Awotinde (CP, Ebonyi State); Ahmadu Abdulrahman (CP, Enugu State); Rabiu Ladodo (CP, Imo State).”
Ejimako concluded thus: “You will notice that there is no single Igbo or South East person at the helms of deciding matters of security (life and death) that concern people of South East. This is unconstitutional. It is also wrong, ungodly and dangerous. How can you secure a people without their participation? When you do that, it runs the grave risk of being perceived as a belligerent occupation, or worse, a benign conquest. Plus, it breeds popular distrust, which is antithetical to security.”
And that is exactly what is happening in the South East and I dare say it will continue. It is natural. The people are resisting what they see as an army of occupation.
For too long, agents of the Nigerian state have behaved as if Ndigbo don’t matter. They have treated the people with so much contempt and disdain and any attempt to express their frustration was seen as an affront and greater force is used to crush it. They are reminded through acts of omission and commission that they don’t have a say in Nigeria. It is so bad that President Muhammadu Buhari asked a journalist who wanted to know why Ndigbo are being treated so disdainfully in his first and only official media chat locally: “What do the Igbo want?”
But what Ndigbo want is simple. They want justice, fairness and equity, which they deserve as of right because the 1999 Constitution, the country’s grundnorm, guarantees that. It is the absence of equal rights and justice that is making peace a scarce commodity in the country because the most formidable enemy any state can confront are a people driven to the point of desperation. When a people would rather prefer death to a life of servitude, the society pays a steep price. And that is exactly where the Igbo youths are right now. Those who shout Biafra or nothing are not kidding.
Are the IPOBians right in their actions? The jury is still out on that. Many Igbo elite are scared that Nnamdi Kanu is leading the youths down a dark alley. I am one of them. Those who disagree with their methods are threatened everyday that there will be no place for them in their Biafra. So, in the Biafra of Nnamdi Kanu’s dreams, we are all endangered species. But make no mistake about it, he remains the most credible leader in the estimation of many Igbo youths who see the political leaders as a bunch of sell-outs. Are they misguided? Maybe! Is Kanu a demagogue? No doubt about that. But he is effective. He has become the greatest mobiliser of the people after Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
President Buhari has grossly mismanaged the commonwealth. Going to Ohanaeze Ndigbo or CAN leadership to find out why insecurity is getting worse in the South East is nonsensical.